Yet Another NFL Player Suspended for Cannabis

Published on November 29, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020
FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2014, file photo, Buffalo Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson (66) celebrates as he watches a 58 yard game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. A double-digit deficit is no longer the death knell it used to be in the NFL. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)

In a move that underscores the NFL’s ongoing rejection of medical cannabis, the league’s top brass on Tuesday announced the suspension of Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson for 10 games, citing his violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

The suspension is a big blow to Henderson the future of his career. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the middle of last season and has been using medicinal cannabis as part of his treatment regimen. He’s since played in only one preseason game and one regular-season game, having also lost significant weight.

The league notified the Bills organization of Henderson’s suspension on Tuesday, the team said. It’s Henderson’s second suspension this year. He served a four-game ban at the beginning of the season, also as the result of his medical cannabis use.

Brian Fettner, Henderson’s agent, called the league’s decision “heartbreaking,” pointing out that Henderson can’t appeal the suspension, because the NFL doesn’t allow an exemption for medical marijuana use.

“His situation is unique, but the drug policy doesn’t line up with the uniqueness. It’s disappointing,” Fettner said.

“The reality is, the NFL’s position has been if you need medical marijuana, then you’re too sick to play,” he added. “But that’s just not the case for Seantrel Henderson.”

The former Miami Hurricanes star will now sit out the final five games of the season.  His suspension will carry over into either the playoffs, if the Bills were to make it, or next season. According to Fettner, Henderson is considering taking legal action.

Henderson’s suspension should come as no surprise to football fans, however. In 2016 alone, there have been 26 NFL players suspended for a violation of the substance abuse policy. Below is a list of NFL players who were suspended this year because of substance abuse, with data used from Spotrac.

PlayerPos.TeamAmountInfractionGames SuspendedDuration
Josh GordonWRCLE$251,389Violating the NFL's substance abuse policy4Week 1 - Week 4
Martavis BryantWRPIT$709,805Violating the league's substance abuse policy multiple times16Week 1 - Week 16
Silas ReddRBWAS$525,000Violating the league's substance abuse policy0Week 0 - Week 0
Le'Veon BellRBPIT$154,247Violating the league's substance abuse policy2Week 1 - Week 2
Taylor MaysSSCINN/AViolating the league's substance abuse policy8Week 1 - Week 8
Nick MoodyILBSEAN/AViolating the league's substance abuse policy4Week 1 - Week 4
Karlos WilliamsRBBUF$136,197Violating substance abuse policy4Week 1 - Week 4
Kenny VaccaroSSNO$705,593Substance Abuse (adderall)4Week 0 - Week 0
Karlos WilliamsRBPITN/ASubstance Abuse10Week 12 - Week 17
Jason JonesDEMIA$169,741Substance Abuse2Week 12 - Week 13
Alan BranchDTNE$407,352Substance Abuse4Week 12 - Week 15
Rolando McClainILBDALN/ASubstance Abuse0Week 11 - Week 16
Trent WilliamsLTWAS$2,517,647Substance Abuse4Week 9 - Week 12
Randy GregoryOLBDAL$510,018Substance Abuse10Week 5 - Week 14
Randy GregoryOLBDAL$216,757Substance abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Seantrel HendersonRTBUF$144,169Substance Abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Rob NinkovichDENE$1,058,823Substance Abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Sammie Lee HillDTTENN/ASubstance Abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Damion SquareDESD$170,588Substance abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Marcell DareusDTBUF$3,035,294Substance Abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Shiloh KeoSSDEN$89,411Substance Abuse2Week 1 - Week 2
Marqueston HuffFSTEN$41,547Substance Abuse1Week 1 - Week 1
Rolando McClainILBDAL$1,176,470Substance Abuse10Week 1 - Week 10
Darren WallerTEBAL$130,064Substance abuse4Week 1 - Week 4
Will HillSSBALN/ASubstance Abuse10Week 1 - Week 10
Aaron LynchOLBSF$152,824for violating the leagues Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse4Week 1 - Week 4

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This list of players suspended for substance abuse comes just days after both the NFL league offices as well as the player’s union announced they will be studying cannabis for pain-management.

“We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, told the Washington Post.

Changes to the current drug policy would need to be agreed upon by the league and the NFL Players Association, either as part of future collective bargaining or as a separate policy.

According to reports from the NFL, several league executives said the NFL should “follow the country” in the changing attitudes about cannabis use. It helps with high-profile suspensions like the ones of Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon and former Nebraska star and current Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory have also raised more awareness about the issue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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